Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bulletin: Major development: "Grits for Breakfast" breaks yet another major story ignored by the mainstream media: "A reluctant scoop: Changing intepretations of DNA mixtures vex legal system."..."The most recent such development: improvements in DNA science and interpretation techniques have caused practitioners to change how they calculate probabilities when it comes to accusing a defendant based on DNA mixtures. In the most extreme instance, the new method reduced a one in a billion probability that evidence matched a particular suspect to around one in 50, the Texas Forensic Science Commission's Lynn Garcia told the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit (TCJIU) on Wednesday.".....Grits comments: "So many other questions are raised, it boggles the mind to consider. No one knows how many cases are involved, but the fear is it's a lot: Many more than in the FSC's hair microscopy review, which is itself expected to take years."


Countdown to Wrongful Conviction Day:  Friday, October 2,  2105; 27 days. For information: http://www.aidwyc.org/wcd-2015/

"DNA has often been referred to as the gold standard of forensic evidence. And when comparing a single sample to a suspect, that's true. When DNA evidence includes mixtures of DNA from multiple sources, however, the scientific community is still figuring things out. And it takes years for new knowledge to pass down from the highest-end basic research to the work tables of practicing DNA analysts at front-line crime labs. The most recent such development: improvements in DNA science and interpretation techniques have caused practitioners to change how they calculate probabilities when it comes to accusing a defendant based on DNA mixtures. In the most extreme instance, the new method reduced a one in a billion probability that evidence matched a particular suspect to around one in 50, the Texas Forensic Science Commission's Lynn Garcia told the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit (TCJIU) on Wednesday. The issue was first publicly revealed in Texas and, to their credit, the courts and relevant agencies have been quick to confront the challenge, even if nobody quite knows yet what to do. Grits has put off writing about this topic for a while, mainly because I hoped the MSM (main stream media HL)  would pick up the story  - it's a big one, with national and even international implications - and thus do me the favor of not having to write up a complicated issue (this blog is a hobby for me, after all). But it doesn't appear anyone else will cover it, so it falls to your correspondent to break the news.........This all began when the FBI identified a handful of errors in its CODIS DNA database (51 problems out of tens of thousand of entries) and issued a public notice saying that the change in any probabilities affected would be insignificant. Garcia said the largest discrepancy estimated from the data-entry errors would have reduced a likelihood of one in 260 billion that it belonged to another person to one in 225 billion. With seven billion people on the planet, that looked like a yawner. But some Texas prosecutors asked for their probabilities to be recalculated, anyway, and when they came back, they were affected to a far greater extent than had previously been portrayed. The most radical difference involved the case mentioned above where a one-in-a-billion probability was lowered to around one-in-fifty, said Garcia. At that, prosecutors and the FSC perked up and took notice. It turned out, the difference stemmed not from the data entry errors but because - in response to all that complex and sciency stuff that I'm not going to attempt to explain here - the FBI had changed its methodology in calculating probabilities for mixtures and moved to a new method which they considered more accurate. According to the FSC notice, "Changes in mixture interpretation have occurred primarily over the last 5-10 years and were prompted by several factors, including but not limited to mixture interpretation guidance issued in 2010 by the [national] Scientific Working Group on DNA analysis" (see here). When they changed methodologies, though, scientists didn't think to notify prosecutors, much less the defense bar. Apparently, nobody wondered, "What happens when you apply the new method to old cases?," much less, "What if a defendant included by the old method is excluded or undetermined under the new one"? Those are the questions the wider legal community is struggling with now, at the moment in Texas but very soon across the country and everywhere on the planet where DNA evidence is used in courts. "So many other questions are raised, it boggles the mind to consider. No one knows how many cases are involved, but the fear is it's a lot: Many more than in the FSC's hair microscopy review, which is itself expected to take years."
http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.ca/2015/09/a-reluctant-scoop-changing.html

Bulletin: Selwyn Days: New York State; False confession case: Man may face fifth trial in Eastchester murders; Conviction overturned on basis that he was not allowed to introduce expert testimony on the issue of false confessions: Case sent back to Westchester County Court for a new trial, which would be his fifth in the case. "The expert testimony was relevant in Days' case, though, according to the appellate court, which noted the lack of physical evidence or eyewitness testimony linking Days to the murders, as well as the videotaped confession, in which officers "repeatedly employed suggestive and leading questions, fed the defendant specific details related to the crime scene, and used rapport-building techniques." The appellate court also said that "significant concerns" were raised by the fact that only the last 75 minutes, the confession, of the seven-hour interrogation were videotaped." Lohud.


Countdown to Wrongful Conviction Day:  Friday, October 2,  2105; 27 days. For information: http://www.aidwyc.org/wcd-2015/

"The next chapter of Selwyn Days' legal saga could feature a fifth trial for two 1996 Eastchester murders after his latest conviction was overturned by a state appellate court on Wednesday. The Mount Vernon man continues to fight for his freedom after being found guilty of killing 79-year-old millionaire Archie Harris and his 35-year-old home health aide, Betty Ramcharan. He claims he's innocent. The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, reversed the Dec. 20, 2011 conviction based on Days' appeal that he was not allowed to introduce expert testimony on the issue of false confessions, according to the court's ruling. The case back to Westchester County Court for a new trial, which would be his fifth in the case.........Days, a career petty criminal, had accused Harris of sexually abusing his mother four months before the real estate investor was killed.  He became a suspect after he was arrested for violating an order of protection against his former girlfriend, who went to police later that day and said that he had confessed the murders to her. He confessed to police after a seven-hour interrogation and nearly 14 hours in custody, according to the ruling......... The appellate court's decision Wednesday to overturn that conviction was based on the Westchester County Court's decision in 2011 to bar expert testimony on the issue of false confessions. The Westchester County Court did not allow the expert testimony because it deemed the issue to be "within the understanding of an average juror," according to the appellate court. The expert testimony was relevant in Days' case, though, according to the appellate court, which noted the lack of physical evidence or eyewitness testimony linking Days to the murders, as well as the videotaped confession, in which officers "repeatedly employed suggestive and leading questions, fed the defendant specific details related to the crime scene, and used rapport-building techniques." The appellate court also said that "significant concerns" were raised by the fact that only the last 75 minutes, the confession, of the seven-hour interrogation were videotaped. Days' two experts in false confessions, Dr. Jessica Pearson and Dr. Richard A. Leo, had determined Days to be particularly vulnerable to false confessions, based in part on his low intelligence and history of mental illness, according to the ruling."
http://www.lohud.com/story/news/crime/2015/09/02/selwyn-days-conviction-overturned/71616194/

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bulletin: Ivan Henry: British Columbia: Moving Vancouver Sun video: "67-year-old Ivan Henry remains haunted by years of imprisonment"..."The reason not to die was so serious...was that I didn't want to leave a history that wasn't mine." (Must See. HL);

"Nearly five years after he was freed from 27-years incarceration for sex crimes he didn’t commit, 67-year-old Ivan Henry remains haunted. Wrongly convicted in 1983 at the age of 36 of three rapes, two attempted rapes and five indecent assaults, he was declared a dangerous offender and imprisoned indefinitely."
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/video+year+ivan+henry+remains+haunted+years+imprisonment/10022281/story.html

Bulletin: Bobby Johnson; New Haven. Connecticut; Set free today after a judge vacated his murder conviction at the request of prosecutors. (Nine years in prison); Supporters say he was coerced into confessing as a teenager with a low IQ; "(Defence lawyer) Rosenthal said New Haven police coerced Johnson into confessing by telling him he was facing the death penalty and he would never see his family again unless he admitted killing Fields. Johnson had an IQ of 69 - below the threshold of 70 considered mental impairment - and broke down and cried as police questioned him and promised him probation if he confessed, Rosenthal said. Johnson went on to plead guilty to murder and was sentenced to 38 years in prison." CBS News.


Countdown to Wrongful Conviction Day:  Friday, October 2,  2105; 28 days. For information: http://www.aidwyc.org/wcd-2015/

"A man who spent nine years in prison for a 2006 killing that his supporters say he was coerced into confessing to as a teenager with a low IQ was set free Friday after a judge vacated his murder conviction at the request of prosecutors.........His release culminated years of efforts to win his freedom by his lawyer, Kenneth Rosenthal, and the Connecticut Innocence Project. Rosenthal said he expects Johnson to file a wrongful incarceration claim with the state, which potentially could result in millions of dollars in compensation.........Michael Dearington, New Haven state's attorney, and prosecutor Timothy Sugrue of the chief state's attorney's office filed a motion Wednesday asking the judge to set aside Johnson's conviction. They said they were acting "in the interest of justice and fair play.".........Johnson was 16 when he and a 14-year-old friend were arrested for the shooting death of 70-year-old Herbert Fields during an apparent robbery in New Haven in August 2006. Rosenthal said New Haven police coerced Johnson into confessing by telling him he was facing the death penalty and he would never see his family again unless he admitted killing Fields. Johnson had an IQ of 69 - below the threshold of 70 considered mental impairment - and broke down and cried as police questioned him and promised him probation if he confessed, Rosenthal said. Johnson went on to plead guilty to murder and was sentenced to 38 years in prison. His friend was acquitted at trial after being detained for 18 months. Rosenthal said police lied about having evidence linking Johnson to the killing and withheld evidence that pointed to other suspects.  Dearington said the killing remains under investigation. Johnson did appeal his conviction but lost in state court. At Rosenthal's urging, the chief state's attorney's office agreed to reinvestigate the case and determined the conviction lacked integrity."
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/murder-conviction-tossed-connecticut-man-bobby-johnson-freed-after-9-years-in-prison/

Bulletin: Ivan Henry: British Columbia: Governments court battle against compensation for wrongly convicted "serial rapist" continues: Reporter Ian Mulgrew: "Ivan Henry’s daughters lost their dad, then their childhood." Vancouver Sun;

Countdown to Wrongful Conviction Day:  Friday, October 2,  2105; 28 days. For information: http://www.aidwyc.org/wcd-2015/

"Henry’s quest for redress for his wrongful convictions exposes not only the misconduct of police, prosecutors and governments, but also the generational nature of family dysfunction — this very much another long day’s journey into night.  Starting with Henry’s abusive stepfather — his impoverished Prairie upbringing and delinquency — three generations are caught up in this Eugene O’Neill-style tragedy filled with ghosts, past and present."
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/mulgrew+ivan+henry+daughters+lost+their+then+their+childhood/11339142/story.html

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bulletin: Kelli Jacobsen: Washington; "Sentenced to 4.5 Years in Death of Richland One Year Old." ..." Former nanny spoke on her behalf and maintained her innocence. "I did not do this," Jacobsen said. "I wish I knew what happened to Ryder. But I did not do this." NBC;

"It was a dramatic and emotional day in court as a judge sentenced Kelli Jacobsen to more than four years in prison for her role in the death of 1-year-old Ryder Morrison.  It was an extremely emotional scene as, family members, friends and other supporters were there in support of the victim Ryder Morrison and the nanny who is convicted of causing his death, Kelli Jacobsen. .........Supporters of Jacobsen spoke their mind as well.  "I know in my heart of hearts that she would never harm or neglect a child in any way shape or form," Nick Johnson said.  "And clearly, clearly she is not some sort of monster," a friend of Kelli's said.  Jacobsen spoke on her behalf and maintained her innocence.  "I did not do this," Jacobsen said. "I wish I knew what happened to Ryder. But I did not do this." After all the testimony, the judge sentenced her to four and a half years behind bars, with a year and a half of community custody when she gets out. Applause broke out when the judge announced that her sentence would start immediately. Some called out in support of Jacobsen when she was taken away."
http://www.nbcrightnow.com/story/29957210/kelli-jacobsen-sentenced-to-45-years-in-death-of-richland-one-year-old

Bulletin: Wrongful convictions and defective cars: Bloomberg Business explains why old convictions raise new questions as car flaws raise doubts. (Must Read. HL);


Countdown to Wrongful Conviction Day:  Friday, October 2,  2105; 29 days. For information: http://www.aidwyc.org/wcd-2015/

"Lakisha Ward-Green spent three months in jail after she lost control of her Chevrolet Cobalt, killing her teenage passenger. Last week, a Pennsylvania judge, citing “newly discovered evidence” erased her guilty plea. The new evidence: the February 2014 recall by General Motors Co. of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches. Ward-Green, now 25, is part of a small but growing group of people caught in a Kafkaesque legal web stemming from the safety scandals that have rocked GM and other automakers. Often blamed for unexplained accidents and sometimes charged with serious crimes, they can wait years before learning the role played by undisclosed defects. With a record 64 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. last year, many of them after being on the road for a decade or more, experts expect an increasing number of proceedings over wrongful convictions to emerge. An examination of court filings has identified at least four such challenges in the case of GM’s recall and one in the case of Toyota. “When defendants claimed their cars shut off or sped up all by themselves, the claims seemed too far out to create a doubt that was reasonable. Now we know better,” said University of Michigan law professor Erik Gordon. In the case of GM’s defective ignition switch, the company knew of the problem for about a decade before it issued a public notice. “Just about everyone who is in jail in a case where there wasn’t clear evidence of driving under the influence or another wrongful act will try to get out using the ‘ignition switch made me do it’ defense,” Gordon said in an e-mail.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-01/old-convictions-new-questions-as-car-flaws-raise-doubts "Lakisha Ward-Green spent three months in jail after she lost control of her Chevrolet Cobalt, killing her teenage passenger. Last week, a Pennsylvania judge, citing “newly discovered evidence” erased her guilty plea. The new evidence: the February 2014 recall by General Motors Co. of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches. Ward-Green, now 25, is part of a small but growing group of people caught in a Kafkaesque legal web stemming from the safety scandals that have rocked GM and other automakers. Often blamed for unexplained accidents and sometimes charged with serious crimes, they can wait years before learning the role played by undisclosed defects. With a record 64 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. last year, many of them after being on the road for a decade or more, experts expect an increasing number of proceedings over wrongful convictions to emerge. An examination of court filings has identified at least four such challenges in the case of GM’s recall and one in the case of Toyota. “When defendants claimed their cars shut off or sped up all by themselves, the claims seemed too far out to create a doubt that was reasonable. Now we know better,” said University of Michigan law professor Erik Gordon. In the case of GM’s defective ignition switch, the company knew of the problem for about a decade before it issued a public notice. “Just about everyone who is in jail in a case where there wasn’t clear evidence of driving under the influence or another wrongful act will try to get out using the ‘ignition switch made me do it’ defense,” Gordon said in an e-mail.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-01/old-convictions-new-questions-as-car-flaws-raise-doubt